Today’s release of the report entitled “The independent review of adult screening programmes in England” by Prof Sir Mike Richards clearly states that there needs to be easier access to NHS screening programmes in England, including evening and weekend clinics, offered in a wider variety of locations, utilising mobile units.

The government had asked Sir Mike to look at the five adult programmes covering cancer and other conditions, specifically:

  • bowel cancer (men and women aged 60 to 74, or from 55 in some pilot areas)
  • cervical cancer (women aged 25 to 64)
  • breast cancer (women aged 50 to 71)
  • abdominal aortic aneurysms (a weakness in the main blood vessel supplying the heart) (men aged 65)
  • diabetic eye screening

Some 15 million people are invited to take part in these screening programmes each year – but just over 10 million take up the invitation. Uptake for bowel cancer screening is lowest, at below 60%.

Promoting convenience is one of the key points made in the report which states:

“These people are most likely to take up screening opportunities if screening could be made more convenient.”

This assumption has been confirmed by researchers at University College London who have shown that around half of non-attenders for cervical screening intended to be screened.

Sir Mike suggests that in order to achieve higher participation rates, which ultimately leads to improved patient outcomes, several changes should be made including:

  • Offer some of the tests via mobile units at supermarket car parks and in other health clinics, such as sexual health centres for cervical screening
  • Weekend and evening opening
  • Further public engagement campaigns

The report has been widely accepted with NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens saying they were “sensible recommendations” that would be acted on. Macmillan Cancer Support also gave its backing to the recommendations, saying they should be implemented “urgently”.